The revelation yesterday of the defection of Chris Finebone, the spokesman of the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP again brought home the dire straits facing Hon Rotimi Amaechi, the man who championed the change that landed Nigeria in its present situation.
Just last Tuesday, before visiting Nyesom Wike on Thursday night, Finebone had issued a strongly worded communique in which he lampooned the governor for dancing Kokoma at a commissioning event in the face of a measles outbreak that was killing scores of people in some parts of the state.
Finebone was the latest in the growing list of close associates of Amaechi who have jumped ship.
There is little doubt to the assertion that between 1999 and 2015 that Amaechi was about the most influential political actor in Rivers State outside Governor Peter Odili. Not only was he Odili’s trusted main man who helped in making most of the appointments of the era, he ascended to the unchallenged political figure in the state in the period between 2007 and 2015. That was until the emergence of Wike.
Amaechi’s political clout was manifested when he came second in the June presidential convention. Though he subsequently congratulated Asiwaju Bola Tinubu on his victory, the former minister of transportation last month alleged that many of those who sold their votes were already regretting.
His assertion was in the face of the claim that the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of the APC has made the aspiration of the party a tall dream.
It was as such remarkable that when it came to pick his campaign team that Tinubu has picked two core associates of Amaechi’s to be the face of his campaign.
Governor Simon Lalong was appointed the director-general of the APC presidential campaign council. Besides Lalong, Olorogun Festus Keyamo, SAN was appointed the spokesman of the campaign.
Lalong was the only governor among the APC’s 22 governors who openly backed Amaechi in his presidential bid. It was not for nothing. Amaechi and Lalong had come a long way and came across one another when they were speakers of Rivers and Plateau State Houses of Assembly.
The gist is that after he stepped down as the longest serving speaker on the Plateau and eventually stepped down as member of the House of Assembly in 2007, that Lalong fell on hard times. Amaechi who as governor of Rivers State and then as Director-General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, was able to push forward his old friend as the APC governorship candidate for Plateau State.
This correspondent cannot confirm the claims in some circles that Amaechi funded Lalong. It is, however, generally acknowledged that Lalong could not have become governor without the faux pas by the PDP on the plateau orchestrated by Jonah Jang. That was because Jang foisted the likeable Senator Pwjok, as his successor.
The other major face in the APC campaign team is Olorogun Festus Keyamo, the onetime fire spitting civil rights activist who walked with the legendary Gani Fawehinmi against oppressors in the society. They also walked together against those who they thought at that time had conflicting identities and credentials in high office.
Amaechi was the one who appointed Keyamo as spokesman of the Buhari Campaign ahead of the second term election and believably made him minister in the second term.
Keyamo understandably backed Amaechi in the turf battle the former transportation minister had with the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege for the control of the South-South. That battle translated into the struggle for the soul of the APC in Delta State.
Keyamo was known to have famously dismissed the Delta State executive of the party as being populated by those he called Omo-Agege’s houseboys and house girls.
Indeed, the irony for Amaechi and his associates is that two of his leading lights in the polity, Lalong and Keyamo, have now been nominated to project the APC presidential candidate, Tinubu to victory.
Lalong once known as the ‘Alert Governor’ by Plateau State civil servants for the promptness with which he paid salaries especially during his first term, has now engendered a mixed legacy that has made the prospects of the APC in Plateau State dire.
That is on account of months of unpaid salaries, ethnic distrust, political disenchantment and the APC administration’s lack of a signature project.
With the appointment of Lalong who was found unworthy to balance the ticket in the north and Keyamo, it has now emerged that two Christians are to be the face of the ticket to enthrone a Muslim-Muslim presidency! It is an irony for many.
An attempt by Governor Lalong to claim acceptability by the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN was firmly rebuked last Thursday when the CAN chairman in Plateau State rebuffed him on his new designation.
Indeed, beyond the optics many Christians do not really see Tinubu as an extremist who should be feared in using religion to oppress non-Muslims. However, the anger for many was that he allowed himself to use political strategy to override the sensibilities of Christians.
How far that strategy will go will be soon in the months ahead.